This type of service is also used to circumvent sports network blackouts or simply to mask your identity online from would-be identity thieves. Of course, check with your content provider’s terms of service to make sure you are not breaking any end-user agreements. To learn the differences between a Smart DNS and VPN check out my post on VPN vs Smart DNS.


The service that started the cable-replacement trend is still one of the best on the market. Sling TV starts off cheap ($20 per month), and while the cost can balloon quickly, depending on your add-ons, this probably won't happen. That's because Sling TV offers two basic packages of channels (Orange and Blue), then lets viewers pick and choose smaller add-ons, which usually cost $5 per month. From sports to comedy to kids' programming to foreign language channels, Sling TV has a little something for everyone. The service's DVR features are not bad, either.

Because the content you get with any of these cable-replacement services, especially local channels, can vary by region, you should go to each company’s website, plug in your ZIP code, and see which channels are available in your area. These video streaming services have been adding more local broadcast channels, such as ABC and CBS, but they’re not always available in smaller markets.


The best way to watch local content is by subscribing to a live TV streaming solution. If you were burned by cable, the idea of signing another contract might seem daunting. Thankfully streaming TV is a different world than cable, free of long-term contracts that screw you on the details. Each of these services allows subscribers to cancel at any time, so if a service isn’t right for you, make sure you try another one. You’ve got options and time to shop.
NFL Game Pass provides on-demand access to all games —including the postseason—after they air. It also gives you access to an NFL Films archive, including past episodes of classic shows like A Football Life, Hard Knocks, and America’s Game. The subscription fee has been knocked down to $50 for the rest of this season (it’s normally $100 per year), and that will give you access through July 31.

Hi Kayla! I think I’ve read EVERY word on this particular blog! It has been HIGHLY informative! I’m too wanting to cut cable. These prices . . . man! Who can afford this stuff? I know I can’t anymore. From what I’ve gathered, with a Smart Tv, looks like I can stream Netflix and Hulu. For other channels I and my son like to watch I’ll need Sling. And for local channels an antenna. My question is for internet or streaming, do I HAVE to have an ISP? Can I purchase a modem and/or router? I know internet only plans are much cheaper but if I can get outta paying for that as well I sure would like to!! MUCH thanks to you!! I am now your FAN ?
On the other hand, we found no streaming package with a sport channel lineup more comprehensive than a standard cable package as of late 2017. You also won’t find many popular regional sports networks that carry local MLB, NBA, and NHL teams. You can watch games that local teams play on ESPN and other national broadcasts, but you usually can’t watch every game through streaming-only services. (Many of these regional sports networks may end up under the ESPN umbrella as part of Disney’s planned acquisition of 21st Century Fox, but it’s still to early to say how this move will affect the streaming availability of local games for about half the teams in those three leagues.) In addition, some particular events are subject to their own licensing rules—for example, you can’t watch Monday Night Football through Sling TV on your mobile phone, because Verizon has exclusive rights to stream NFL games to phones.

Pete, you can find some free sports on sites like NBC and ESPN3, but it’s not regular enough to catch all your favorites. I enjoy watching a good game now and then, but I’m not a die hard fan who has to catch every game his favorite team plays. So I’m pretty much content to watch whichever shows come on the regular network channels (even if I have to put up with commercials… sigh).
You don’t need a cable subscription for everything, but lately I’ve noticed they are blacking out more and more marquee events on ESPN3. I would have cut the cord long ago if it wasn’t for my love of sports. There are illegal streams for most sporting events now, but if you want to go legit you don’t have many options. You could do MLB.tv and things like that, but once you factor in those costs plus going out to bars or friends’ places for NFL games, etc. it’s getting almost as expensive as a cable plan.
I use a combo of Roku, a Mohu Leaf antenna (excellent picture quality) to get OTA signals and a Tivo Premiere box as I wanted the option of recording the OTA signals and the convenience of watching them when I wanted to. The Tivo service is $20 a month, but has lots of great features (season pass, Tivo Desktop, online programing to name a few) and is LESS than 1/3 the price of my FORMER dish bill :)
However, if you’re a more casual sports fan or a supporter of an out-of-market team, cord cutting is still a worthwhile option. Sling TV—assuming it can hold up under the strain of future events—will give you ESPN and ESPN 2 in addition to a handful of basic cable channels for $20 a month, and for another $5 you can get even more sports options, including ESPN U, ESPNEWS, and the SEC Network. Add in an indoor TV antenna and you’ll also have access to network sports.
Hulu is one of the most affordable alternatives to cable and satellite tv. Not only is there original content, but you can also view shows from local channels and some cable networks soon after they air. The baseline service comes in at a reasonable $8 per month, though you do have to tolerate some highly repetitive ads if you choose this option. If the ads get under your skin, for a $12 a month, you can upgrade to the commercial-free service.
With the least cable-like interface of the Big 5, Hulu's greatest asset is the integration of live TV with its significant catalog of on-demand content for one price. Unfortunately, the interface frustrations apparent with the standard service are amplified once you add live TV. The app generally confuses "simple" with "incomplete." It technically offers a guide, for example, but it's extremely bare-bones. Another issue is that you'll have to pay extra, a hefty $15 per month, to get the ability to skip commercials on Hulu's cloud DVR.
There is overlap, but streaming these during non-peak periods works very well if you have a good broadband connection. My work pays for a low-tier Cable business connection. No limits on the bandwidth this way, but if a home was normal and streamed 1 HiDef 2 hr movie every day of the month, the entire home should be under 250GB of use – no bandwidth cap issue for most DSL and Cable ISP connections in the USA. Forget this if you have cell data. It is too slow for hidef content.
While Netflix ($8-12 per month), Hulu ($8-12 per month) and Amazon Prime ($119 per year) are the most recognizable streaming services, they are not the only ones available. In fact, traditional streaming services — wherein you pay a monthly fee to consume as much content as you like on-demand — are only a small part of the market. Depending on how much you're willing to spend (from nothing up to hundreds of dollars per year), you can get just about anything you used to enjoy on cable.
While we haven't paid for cable TV, we haven't exactly been deprived, or had to watch only the shows offered by the over the air networks.  There are tons of free video options out there! In fact, we actually still watch a lot of the same shows that our friends do. How do we do it you ask? Through a combination of free over-the-air digital TV,  free online video services (the legal kind), a video streaming software, super low-cost internet service from FreedomPop, and a Xbox. FreedomPop is a low cost alternative to larger Internet service providers. Right now their plans might be too small for heavy video streaming users, but they're definitely on their way to bigger and better offerings – and they're definitely good enough if you only stream shows a few times a month. You can read more about them on their site.

Hardware question. We are renters and can’t cut holes or run wires. TV is upstairs (old TV but we want to get a 46″ flat panel on a black Friday special). Computer using comcast is downstairs. We currently have the $12 cable upstairs. Don’t want it any longer. How do I get the “network” to work without drilling holes and running wires. Do I have to get a wireless transmitter for my computer and a wireless receiver for my new TV in order to stream from the playon software to my TV? What external ports do I need to make sure to have on my new TV? Thank You So Much!!!!
Buy a basic digital flat digital antenna at your local electronics store. These are usually priced under $50. If you live more than 25 miles from the closest broadcast towers or if your TV is in the basement, you might need an outdoor antenna. These are more expensive but can be mounted on your roof, your balcony, or even in your attic for better reception.
I was a loyal cable TV customer for all of my adult life, paying about $34/month for basic cable (which sounds ludicrously cheap now). Then I moved to a different city where the cost was $52/month for basic cable. I paid it and figured, “well, that’s just the cost of getting TV”. More and more, however, I realized that I wasn’t getting good TV. I was just surfing through the channels over and over looking for good TV. Then, my 6-month “introductory cable rate” ended and my cable bill went up to $57/month. Sure, it was only a few dollars more, but that was the last straw. After a few months of putting up with the higher cost and lack of good shows, I decided to “Disable My Cable” and try broadcast digital TV. The first thing I tried was an old rabbit-ear antenna that I had from the pre-digital TV days… Read the rest of my story here.
Currently, the best way to watch live TV online is — ironically — to have an existing cable or satellite subscription. Slowly but surely, though, cord cutters are gaining access to real-time channels in addition to pre-recorded content. Live TV could be the next big frontier for streaming video, but until then, watching shows as they happen requires a little dedication and creativity.
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